Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One Two Tea

chaikhana tree

I took a spontaneous trip back to Flip Flop last weekend and one of the stops I made was to Chaikhana to get my brick of Tibetan Pu-er and some lapsang. They were out of the pu-er, but not the lapsang (but I found some other wet-cave-aged tea).

Tea isn't a summer thing. Iced tea is too bitter (and the lemon and sugar that gets added doesn't make it any more drinkable). Tea is, at best, a gentle compensation to blustery weather. Now that it is officially autumn, tea is in season (and I can start pulling my dark brown and black clothes out of the basement) . Besides, tea is mostly a treat for the nose, and if the sublte aromas aren't carried to the schnoz via steam, then about 75% of the enjoyment is lost.

Favorite Recent Tea Experiences

Interstate 580, Mountain River Pu-er

Tea on the freeway isn't usually something I'd recommend. You could spill it on yourself, swerve into a central barrier and die. Also, drinking it properly out of a tea cup is difficult, if not impossible while the car is careening in and out of lanes and zipping down off-ramps. Be that as it may, El Cab found his calm inner tea ceremony guru cruising (on the passenger's side, of course) on N 580. He miraculously got most of the tea out of the leaky thermos into the Winny-the-Pooh cups I stole from the KB that morning. The wet cave smell of the tea overwhelmed even the burning-oil-stale-commute-fart car smell that usually pervades the Silver Bullet. Magic.

Imperial Red, with the Elevens

Eleven has always been one of the tea tastemakers in my life. Her tales of the Tea Guru and of pu-er sent me to Chaikhana for the first time, and she has always been enthusiastic about trying something new. One of her all-time favorites is Imperial Red, a black tea... (and that's all I know about it). It tastes like chocolate, but not in a lame-artificial-chocolate-flavor way. It tastes more like the Platonic Ideal of chocolate, without the annoying parts. If Chocolate had a fakir cousin who could levitate over the bed of hissing cobras then that would be Imperial Red. It doesn't hurt that the Elevens live in a little red cabin surrounded by old growth oak trees, and their book-lined living room is one of the more enchanted places I know.

Ginger Pu-er at Cafe Laila

I usually don't see pu-er at cafes, but when I spied the jar that had this label the other day, I knew I had to have it. It was the ghost of ginger holding a seance in a wet cave.


Michelle Abby said...

2003 - tea house (cubby) on the Pearl River, tasting unaffordables with the hopes of bringing home some elegant oolong to remind us of the flavors of China, there on the left almost blocking the door was a rude pile of eeny weeny teapots, discarded not sure why, but the little brown (earthenware?) delicates, shaped like a gourd, or decorated with dragonflies, or etched with stripy patterns, the lady wanted them gone and I so yearned to adopt. $1.50 each. I thought of the killing I could make in reselling them here, but chose not to pursue that business plan. Instead, just a few to give to the kids. I have one here: lotus leaf lid with a tiny frog on top.
and the oolong, unforgettably round.

Franny said...

imperial rss is great. Very malty, rich sort of vanilla bean flavours, kinda like Guinness as a tea ? That's what I think.

John B. said...

I don't know from tea, I admit. Reading this, though, makes me want to--especially if it can help me write like this.

(I do have to demur regarding iced tea, though, especially if prepared with a little sugar, lemon and almond extract: (Southern) Nirvana, that is.)

Camille said...

John-- Hm, maybe I have been missing out on the almond extract. Sounds yummy.

Michelle-- thanks for the great story.

Franny-- you would know your teas (working at Pts and all). I'll have to look for the vanilla next time.

H said...

Yes, but is there an image of a woman arching her back while sitting on a teacup on the box?

brittany said...

wow! You have lots of readers :D I'm from swapbot, I suppose you'll have figured that out. I really love the photo at the top of this post, by the way. Your photos are really interesting. They remind me of a lot of places...

rosa said...

a few days ago I was found caressing a brick of Russian black tea in Sitka, Alaska. I wanted it pretty badly-but it's $35.00 price tag made me re-wrap it lovingly in it's brittle paper.....
"...the ghost of ginger holding a seance in a wet cave"......nicely put.
Sorry we missed the royal visit to Flip-Flop!

Gene said...

Hi carmen!

I'm here via swap-bot and your blog is really nice. I love that black and white photography. the blur effect gives it a creepy look. :D

Peace & Love,
Gene (geneinthebattle)

Anonymous said...

The photos are awesome! Personally - I like hot green tea with a little honey and occasionally some milk. Or a yummy cup of chai... I'm off to boil some water...

Anonymous said...


Only In Cambodia said...

Did you know that one should inhale the vapor of Chinese Oolong tea after it has been drunk, so as to keep your female complexion beautiful?
A little know piece of wisdom gained from a tea room experience in the antique alley of Beijing circa 2003.

four, five sips said...

hey gorgeous... miss seeing you around the flip. i saw Gina at a party last night and thought of you... i hope all is well and hope our paths cross again, perhaps in the flop.

your secret admirer, david :)

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I blog about life and soup, but mostly soup.